Hearing management

Updated 12 August 2016

How a doctor would remove your earwax

You may be tempted to try to remove earwax build-up at home, but are you doing it they way a doctor would?


Scientists say that we have earwax to help protect the delicate ear canal and to trap dust, foreign objects and small flying insects, but no one knows for sure. It is known that the amount of wax you produce is genetically determined.

A proper syringing

One thing we do know is that wax build-up can cause symptoms like itchy ears, dizziness, a sensation of blocked ears and even a diminished sense of hearing. The first thing we reach for is a earbud or pin. Not only does using these implements worsen the problem, but cleaning your ears with pointed objects can damage the canal and the eardrum.

Read: Earbuds linked to ruptured eardrums

To solve the problem of blocked ears, best would be to visit your doctor for a proper syringing. Prior to your visit, put some wax-softening drops in your ear. Waxol drops work well.

Here's how you get those nasty wax plugs out of your ears:

1. Place some wax softening ear drops in your ear canal for a day or two.

2. Get a suction bulb (like the ones used to suck mucus from a baby's nose) and body-temperature water.

3. By softly aiming a gentle stream of water to the top part of the ear canal, you may manage to dislodge and wash some of the wax out.

4. Repeat the process a few of times.

5. If you don't have any success, stop! Continuous washing may damage the canal or ear drum.

When should you NOT self-syringe:

1. If you have grommets

2. If you have or previously had a hole in your tempanic membrane

3. If you have ear pain

4. If your ear canal is exceptionally narrow

5. If you've experienced dizzy spells 

Read more:

What causes foul-smelling ears?

The 10 worst jobs for your ears

Is inaudible noise making you deaf?

Image: Medical ear wash from Shutterstock


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Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

AuD degree obtained in 2013 at AT Still University Health Science Depart-ment, Arizona. Masters in Communication Pathology at the University of Pretoria, 2003. Remedial Teaching Diploma at Rand University, 1996. Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria, 1993. Owner of a private practice in Pretoria since 1999. Educating the community regarding early identification of hearing problems and screening of new-borns. Providing assistance and services at retirement homes. Part-time lecturer at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. External examiner at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. Presenter at conferences and seminars.

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